Links to Rose Hunter’s writings can be found at Whoever Brought Me Here Will Have to Take Me Home. A book of poetry, to the river, was published by Artistically Declined Press. She is also the editor of a small poetry journal, YB.
"The poems in Rose Hunter's debut collection read like a travelogue in verse. Each line is an adventure in a new locale, each poem a revelation that sticks with you as each new poem begins."
"A stunning collection, To the River is more than one woman's journey through life: it's a series of quests, each presenting its own challenges, and the question is: Will she survive the next? Read these poems and find out."
I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like, which is one of the reasons Rose Hunter’s poetry collection To the River was a special treat for me: Essentially, it’s a passport that grants the reader access to places all over the globe, foreign places, or at least places foreign to me. And I didn’t even have to pack a bag or blush through airport security X-ray machines. Bonus.
This collection begins its journey in Sydney and finishes in Puerto Vallarta, touching down in places like Toronto, Hamburg, and Las Vegas in between. We follow the narrator as she rides buses, treks on foot, and sits on airplanes. She moves, oftentimes, as a stranger in a strange land:
“[. . .] I go to do laundry, and two girls
one on each side yell
something about me not being from here
and having odd hair [. . .]”
Sometimes I got the sense that she was traveling alone, being the quiet observer, sometimes interacting with locals, other times keeping a safe distance from them.
And sometimes I got the sense that she was traveling with someone else, a lover, or a would-be-lover, or a what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you-lover, partnerships to which, I’m sure, many readers can relate.
And it’s within these interactions, with her companion or with strangers, that another layer of access is granted, perhaps not to places foreign to the reader, but to the sometimes dusty promenades of the mind. And it’s on these paths that the gold of these journeys flickers just underfoot, wrapped in the rattling reality of planes, buses, hotels, or hostels.
"[. . .] Your
face is very expressive, he says.
‘I mean you can read everything
on it.’ No, I think, while aping
regretful admission; you can read
everything I plant on it. [. . .]”
With simple language, Hunter explores misconceived perceptions within personal relationships brought forth by the boundaries and guises we create for ourselves, our feelings. It’s a rehearsed honesty, a wall built of small moments to protect ourselves from the things we love and / or fear. It’s not a wall built out of meanness, necessarily, but personal necessity, what’s needed at a particular moment at a particular time to ensure safety, whatever that might entail.
Hunter also shines a light on the collective breakdown of human sympathy:
“while I despaired
how we zoom around
tossing out hurt like salad.”
And here, when our narrator comes across a discarded tire:
“[. . .] Like many of us
it was spun until it burst"
Hunter offers great observations on the ease of cruelty, how people have forgotten the importance of patience and kindness, of treating people like, well, people. And it’s observations such as these that strike me the hardest, probably because I feel them to be true.
Presenting insights that challenge without a heavy, preachy hand is what good poetry is supposed to do, and this collection does exactly that. It’s a kinetic observation of human ugliness and beauty, of being caught somewhere in the middle, kicking, longing, sometimes bleeding. To the River is a journey well worth the price of admission, and you don’t even need to leave the warmth and comfort of your blankets to begin.